Science fiction has long been used as a metaphorical vehicle for dealing with grief or trauma. “Zojaqan” feels like it belongs in this tradition, but also takes it in a new direction.
The story starts with Shannon Kind stranded on an alien world. She discovers a native prey and predator species on the planet, and finds herself defending the prey against the predators. She then sporadically jumps forward in time, sometimes a few dozen years into the future, sometimes thousands of years. Over time, her prey species, the Zoja, build a civilization based on her teachings. However, her lessons get distorted and her offhand moral guidance stagnates into a corrupt religion.
Throughout the story, we also learn that Shannon is grieving the death of her son Luther. Her flashbacks to Earth remind us of our own troubled present (in one panel, Luther even carries a Black Lives Matter sign). The implication is clear: despite the progress of civilization, we will always have to contend with the strong preying on the weak.
“Zojaqan” is a multilayered story that does not give up its secrets easily. It can sometimes be hard to follow, but never because of bad writing or unclear artwork. Rather, I felt the writers wanted to prompt readers to engage with the story actively. You will probably need to work to get the most out of this story. I particularly appreciate just how much the authors leave to the imagination. It’s possible to get a rough understanding of the rules of this world, but ultimately there’s so much more we don’t know. Subtlety is an understatement.
I personally loved the art style. The characters were drawn with just enough clarity so that they’re clear, but the artist never dwells too much on the details. The abstract style helps lend the world a slightly ethereal quality. Great use of reds for the sky.
This comic isn’t for everyone. “Zojaqan” is not an action/adventure story. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the recent movie “Annihilation” (without the horror). It’s a quirky science fiction story that works primarily on an emotional and intellectual level rather than through worldbuilding and plot development.
[NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review]